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Monday, February 18, 2013

Learning to Play together

Many conservatives argue that the principle that the best government is the least government. They rightly argue that direct democracy is only practical in small communities where the form of government is ad-hoc and people have no conflicts with neighbors. However, making government small enough to drown in a bathtub requires first creating a dictator who can be drowned there. Simple, abstract arguments are like a sheet of paper covered with vertical or horizontal lines. If the world were so simple all one would need to have integrity (to be integral) would be to color in the lines provided by the Ineffable, eternal, author. One color, one author, one sheet of paper, and the result not exactly exciting unless one pins a million dollar price tag to it and cons folks into thinking of it as abstract art.

The real world requires more creativity and vision. The ineffable one has provided a coloring book where sometimes we have to sometimes, collectively, draw our own lines and hope everyone agrees. But the difficulty is, we are all sharing the same coloring book, so no one person gets all the credit, and all authority is contingent on agreement, in the short run with the other humans present, and in the long run with that collective agreement we label with the term "God." The lines we draw on our four dimensional paper have to be drawn in coordination with others. Oppression is taking so much space on the paper that others can't draw anything. Tyranny is not letting others draw, or forcing them to draw ugly things using violence. We have to learn to play together. Success in this society requires both individual initiative, and the willingness and ability to play together.

This is because the lines that separate and join our destiny often intersect. If most of us would prefer a race track to getting to our goals, real life is more like a demolition derby -- the tracks intersect in ways that are inconvenient to everyone. Half a second divides success from failure because people often are in conflict over the crayons we need to draw our lives. "Competition" is our efforts to put a dress on Ares and call him Athena. We inherit from the Greeks a certain sophisticated hypocrisy. If we want a better world we have to work together.

In this world everyone needs the opportunity to be his or her best self. The world is like a mural, where we can find our own space if we are willing to give space to others. The wisdom of the right to property is about when to protect that right. and when a person must relinquish that right.

Property rights are like a highway. We all have them. We are supposed to stay 1-7 car lengths behind the cars ahead of us, and avoid crashing into others. When the world turns into a mish mash of crossing lines we have to respect the stop signs and know when to stop. Libertarianism errs when it becomes a mouthpiece for children who want to own all the crayons and force people to draw their arbitrary ideas -- or when they reject the teachers. Without communitarianism and mutual respect the world becomes a demolition derby. Without individual rights it becomes a mob and the mural becomes something dark and ugly, while the highway piles up with crashed and broken cars.

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